Friday, March 4, 2011

Bessu and Bees

I love my bessu. I mean I love my sitting robes and my okesa as well, but I have a special fondness for the bessu. We wear them on ceremonial occasions, which means I get mine out quite often: this week I have had occasion to wear them three days running, for the Katagiri Roshi memorial and the Suzuki Roshi memorials. The very fact of putting them on helps put me in the ceremonial frame of mind, as a material reminder of what I am doing, something I also get from feeling the smoothness of my freshly shaved head. There is something about the way the bottom of my kimono swishes against them as I walk that is very satisfying, and my feet always feel inadequate and naked when I take them off.

There is a phrase I am fond of in the Shobogenzo fascicle 'Flowers in the Sky', which I have in my memory as "It is the time of flowers, and flowers have arrived". Well, here at City Center it is the time of bees, and bees have arrived. This gives me an excuse to pull out some pictures of the miraculous time at Tassajara, which is perhaps happening now, when the blossoms are abundant and the trees buzz.

This bee may have missed the mark. Or maybe not.
Actually we just heard from Keith that with the recent cold and stormy weather at Tassajara, a sycamore fell by the women's side of the bathhouse, damaging the fence but just missing the steam room. At the base of the trunk, which had been damaged in the fire of 2008, a colony of bees was found, and efforts are being made to keep the colony viable.
To celebrate the arrival of the bees here in the city, we had a ceremony of course, transplanting our noon service to the roof. Marcia, the City Center gardener and environmental steward, who is overseeing the operation on this end, had passed on some excerpts of sutras which mention bees, found by Marshall, and we chanted a couple of those alongside the Loving Kindness Meditation. Here is one of the pieces.
"All of you Bhikshus, you should receive various kinds of food and
drink as if you were taking medicine. Whether they be good or bad,
do not take more or less of them, but use them to cure hunger and
thirst and to maintain the body. Bhikshus should be the same way as
bees gathering from flowers, only taking the pollen without harming
their form or scent; receive peoples' offerings to put an end to
distress, but do not seek to obtain too much and spoil their good
hearts. Be like a wise man, who having estimated the load that suits
the strength of his ox, does not exceed that amount and exhaust its
strength." (Sutra on the Buddha's bequeathed teaching).

It was nice to have Alan, who has looked after the bees at Green Gulch for many years, and whom I met when I was tenzo through his supplying us with amazing local honey, on hand for the ceremony. The weather was pretty balmy and very suitable for being on the roof with the new hive, and we had a good-sized crowd chanting along. We even got to sing 'Happy Birthday' to Alan afterwards.


Sandy's witterings said...

Lovely pictures. Bees are as good a thing to celebrate as anything else I can think of. More important to the general furtherance of life on Earth than we'll ever be, and unfortunately having rather a hard time of it at the moment over here and more so I believe with yourselves in America.

Shundo said...

Indeed, we are having all kinds of problems, including invasive species of bees and colonies mysteriously dying off. Hopefully we can stave off the complete collapse of civilisation, but who knows...